Historically, funding for research has come from a variety of sources as science transitioned from a “gentleman’s” pursuit to rigorous empirical testing (Burke, 2012). Private industry has always played a role in research projects (Kappos, 2013) as well as government funding (Burke, 2012).
Today’s universities rely on outside sources of funding. For example, the University of South Florida received over $411 million in outside sources of research funding (USF, 2012). Approximately 40% came from the federal government, 15% from state governments, and 45% from private industry (USF, 2012). Traditionally, most research funding has been for quantitative research (Bourgeault, 2012).
There has been very little research on the effects corporate and government funding has had on the diffusion of knowledge. Recent studies, however, have found some disturbing trends. Martinson et al. (2009) found that researchers who were involved in outside funding research reported that they were more likely to engage in questionable or unethical behavior, thus undermining scientific integrity. Hottenrott (2011) found that researchers who were funded by private industry produced less scientific journal articles and therefore contributed less to the diffusion of knowledge. Finally, Fortin and Currie (2013) found that large funding grants did not produce proportionally large research results, leading the researchers to conclude that smaller grant awards to diverse institutions produced the best results.
In conclusion, Burke (2012) gives a historical account of research funding in his discussion of the sociologies of knowledge. In it he describes traditional government and private industry funding and how many big discoveries may not have been possible without those sources of income (Kappos, 2013). However, as grant proposals become major sources of income for universities, obtaining this funding may become more of a priority than scientific pursuit. In other words, pursuing science for science dollars may decide what problems are investigated. As the data suggests, scientific progress may be stunted by this new influx of money.
Bourgeault, I.L. (2012). Critical issues in the funding of qualitative research. Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research, 7: 1-7.
Burke, P.(2012). A Social History of Knowledge: From the "Encyclopédie" to Wikipedia. Cambridge: Polity.
Fortin, J., & Currie, D. J. (2013). Big Science vs. Little Science: How Scientific Impact Scales with Funding. Plos ONE, 8(6), 1-9. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065263
Hottenrott, H., & Thorwarth, S. (2011). Industry Funding of University Research and Scientific Productivity. Kyklos, 64(4), 534-555. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6435.2011.00519.x
Kappos, D. J. (2013). WHO WILL BANKROLL THE NEXT BIG IDEA?. Scientific American, 309(4), 58-61.
Martinson, B., Crain, A., Anderson, M., & De Vries, R. (2009). Institutions' expectations for researchers' self-funding, federal grant holding, and private industry involvement: manifold drivers of self-interest and researcher behavior. Academic Medicine: Journal Of The Association Of American Medical Colleges, 84(11), 1491-1499.
USF Research & Innovation (2012). Annual report retrieved from http://issuu.com/usfresearch/docs/usf-resrept-fy2012?e=7173580/2699317